Bryant returned to the lineup Sunday with much fanfare after missing the first 19 games of the season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. The results were not spectacular as the former MVP finished with nine points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and eight turnovers in 28 minutes of action. However, watching the game there were several positive takeaways. On Los Angeles' first offensive position, Bryant threw a jump pass to teammate Robert Sacre for an assist. As he landed from the pass, Bryant's full weight came down on his surgically repaired left leg. He did not come up limping and looked comfortable running back up the court. As the game progressed, you could see fatigue coming into play as Bryant's legs (both of them) looked heavy. However, the majority of his struggles didn'tt seem to stem from his legs but instead trying too hard to fit in with his new teammates and basic timing issues that naturally occur with an eight month layoff. As he returns to the appropriate physical shape needed to play a NBA game at a high level, I fully expect Kobe's timing and rhythm to return. If he can shake off the accumulated rust and minimize any associated symptoms or setbacks, he has a good chance at being a very productive fantasy player this season. Welcome back Mamba.
The early front-runner for Rookie of the Year has been held out of Philadelphia's last two games with a skin infection on his right knee. The infection was apparently irritated during a recent game against the Pistons when he collided with an opponent. The infection is serious enough to have placed Carter-Williams in the hospital, where he was under constant watch. The infection has been cultured and infectious disease specialists are working to identify the cause. It doesn't appear to be life threatening and is not spreading but it is being handled cautiously. He has been released from the hospital, but no timetable has been given for a possible return, making him a risky play for the upcoming week. MCW will need time for any associated antibiotics to run their course and additional time to get back up to speed. Tony Wroten will continue to start in his place.
Already playing without Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose, the Bulls lost another starter as Deng missed Saturday's game against the Pistons. The injury is being called an Achilles injury and an MRI taken this weekend did not reveal any significant damage. The calf muscle is a muscle group consisting of two muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus. The two muscles have a conjoined tendon, the Achilles, and are primarily responsible for plantar flexing the foot (pointing your toes) at the ankle joint, making it a critical component in running and jumping. Deng's injury sounds like Achilles tendinitis, a condition he has dealt with in the past. During the 2007-08 season Deng missed a total of 16 games with Achilles tendinitis. Furthermore, he's previously dealt with hamstring problems that could also come into play here. In addition to its action at the ankle, the calf also crosses the knee and aids the hamstrings in bending the leg (knee flexion). A weakened calf can force the hamstrings to become overworked, making that muscle group susceptible to strains. While the clean MRI is good news, the risk for aggravation or a cascade injury remains high for the immediate future. Deng could return soon, but I'm worried about his sustained health.
Chandler is making progress in his recovery from a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula. He has begun work on a reduced gravity treadmill, a specialized piece of equipment designed to reduce the amount of body weight put through the lower extremities through the use of air. The injured individual is secured into a harness that is connected to a pressure-controlled chamber. The chamber lift's the player to a specified weight, determined by the physical therapist or athletic trainer. Doing so allows the athlete to run while reducing the amount of ground reaction forces placed on and through the legs. The treadmill allows for a gradual return to activity without a loss of conditioning. Chandler has also returned to practice, though he has refrained from contact drills. He remains day-to-day, but his return is drawing near.
Tony Allen: Allen remains day-to-day with a hip contusion after missing two games with the injury. He may be a huge contributor on the defensive end, particularly with steals, but it's difficult to roster a player of his ilk when he's not playing.
Tyler Hansbrough: Hansbrough suffered a mild sprain to the acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) in his left shoulder over the weekend. He also experienced some mild associated nerve pain, though he should be back soon.
Paul Pierce: Pierce returned to practice and has a chance to play in his return to Boston. He has missed four games with a non-displaced fracture of his third metacarpal that was expected to sideline him for two-to-four weeks. If he plays against his former team Tuesday, he will return 10 days after sustaining the injury. Pain tolerance will be the primary limiting factor that could directly affect his shot. Furthermore, he will be at risk of re-injury if the union in the bone is not completely healed.
Tiago Splitter: Like Deng, Splitter is dealing with a left calf injury. He will not travel with the team on their two-game road trip after irritating the injury. Boris Diaw should see a bump in minutes during Splitter's absence.
Rodney Stuckey: Stuckey has been a surprise fantasy producer during the first quarter of the season but is currently managing a case of quadriceps tendinitis. He made a brief appearance Saturday and did not play Sunday. Tendinitis can be a lingering issue, so it may be wise to keep him on the bench.
Deron Williams: While Pierce's availability remains in limbo, the Nets plan to welcome back their floor general Tuesday. Williams is expected to return after missing 11 of 12 games with a left ankle sprain. Plug him back in your lineups, but scale back your expectations until he can establish a solid rhythm.